MUMBAI: Shiv Sena-BJP members in the civic improvements committee managed to push through a controversial new policy governing recreactional grounds and playgrounds on Monday. The two bickering alliance partners buried their differences and defeated the combined opposition to the policy from the Congress, MNS and Samajwadi Party, by a single vote. The policy will now be tabled before the civic general body for approval after Diwali.

Opposition party corporators questioned the need for a policy for RG-PG for Mumbai when the BMC has a budget of over Rs 33, 000 crore for the purpose. Congress corporator Mohsin Haider said the policy was meant to appease only a certain class of people. “The garden department’s budget for the year 2015-16 is Rs 439.19 crore, which the BMC does not manage to spend completely. In 2014-15, the department’s budget was Rs 417.97 crore of which only Rs 275.5 crore was spent. Being the country’s richest civic body if we have such a large amount of funds, why do we need to have an adoption policy?” said Haider.

Corporators said the policy ideally should have been formulated in a way that the BMC took back plots given on caretaker basis to politicians or politically-linked parties. During the Sena-BJP rule in the state between 1995-99, several open plots were allotted under the caretaker policy to politically-affiliated trusts and organizations like Borivli’s Kamla Vihar Sports Complex, MIG Club at Bandra, Matoshree Club at Jogeshwari and the Dahisar Sports Foundation. Samajwadi Party corporator Ashraf Azmi said whenever RG-PG plots were given out, there was some violation or another.

“The BMC is a service-providing entity and by inviting associations or federations of local housing societies, business associations or corporate houses who want to use their ‘corporate social responsibility’ fund to adopt gardens/recreation grounds/playgrounds/parks, we are to some extent commercializing the whole activity. The organizations may over time start charging an entry fee to those visiting the space and not all people can afford to pay. The poor would hence be deprived of enjoying the city’s open spaces,” said Azmi.

However, Sena corporator Raju Pednekar said it was a good policy and should be immediately approved. BJP corporator and improvements committee chairman Prakash Gangadhare, who was in favour of the policy, sought a poll over the issue. While 12 votes, all of BJP-Sena corporators, were received in favour of the policy, there were 11 votes from opposition corporators. “The policy was passed in the group leaders’ meeting in October and hence brought before the improvements committee. With a majority of votes received, the policy was passed,” said Gangadhare.

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Source: TOI-MUM